Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the variation in living organisms, viewed within a given habitat, ecosystem or in the world as a whole. The concept is usually applied to the species diversity, although the notion of genetic biodiversity is applied to the variation in genes within an individual species. While most people think of rainforests as loci of great biodiversity, biomes such as oceans and grasslands are the likely repositories for even greater variation. Retention of diverse biota is important, since intact ecosystems are thought to be essential for provision of ecosystem services to humans, including maintenance of a diverse foodbank, pollination, clean water, flood control, pest control, waste decomposition, biomass energy resources and climate stability. Biodiversity is presently critical since we live in the era of the Mass Holocene Extinction, a period of species loss caused by man, and unrivaled in rate of species loss. Although the number of total species numbers in the tens of millions, most have not yet even been described. The extinction of a species is almost always related to destruction of habitat or man-made pollution.

  • Coral reefs (collection) Featured Article Coral reefs (collection) Coral reefs (collection)

    Coral reefs are one of the most diverse, complex, aesthetically appealing and threatened ecosystems on earth. This collection will include information on a wide range of topics... More »

  • Crustacea Featured Article Crustacea Crustacea

    Crustaceans are invertebrates belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and include such familiar groups as barnacles, crabs, crayfish, lobster, water fleas and pill bugs. Crustaceans... More »

  • Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Featured Article Ecoregions of Utah (EPA) Ecoregions of Utah (EPA)

    The Ecoregions of Utah comprise a diverse set of plant communities and geomorphic provinces. Ecoregions denote areas of general similarity in ecosystems and in the type,... More »

  • Habitat fragmentation Featured Article Habitat fragmentation Habitat fragmentation

    Habitat fragmentation involves alteration of habitat resulting in spatial separation of habitat units from a previous state of greater continuity. ... More »

  • Virus Featured Article Virus Virus

    A virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only inside the cells of a host organism. Most viruses are so tiny they are only observable with at least a conventional... More »

  • South China Sea Featured Article South China Sea South China Sea

      The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of... More »

  • Devonian Featured Article Devonian Devonian

    The Devonian period is a geologic time interval within the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, aapproximately 417 million years before present (BP), to... More »

  • Spinner dolphin Featured Article Spinner dolphin Spinner dolphin

    The Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), a marine mammal in the family of oceanic dolphins,  gets its name from the spinning behavior it shows when it leaps out of... More »

  • Permian Featured Article Permian Permian

    The Permian period lasted from 290 to 248 million years ago and was the last period of the Paleozoic Era. The distinction between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic is made at the... More »

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Angiosperm Last Updated on 2014-08-25 13:09:22 The Angiosperms, or flowering plants, described taxonomically as the division Magnoliophyta, are the largest grouping within the plant kingdom (Kingdom ''Plantae'' or "Viridiplantae") in terms of the numbers of described species.  Approximately 260,000 species of flowering plant have been named so far -- constituting nearly 90% of all known species of plants. Even so, taxonomists describe many new species annually, and estimates of total angiosperm diversity reach as high as 400,000 species.  There are about 450 families of flowering plants, and they display extremely diverse life-histories and ecological adaptations.  In addition to dominating plant biodiversity, angiosperms are the dominant photosynthesis/photosynthetic organisms (primary producers) in most terrestrial ecosystems (an important exception to this rule are the boreal forests,... More »
India’s Western Ghats: Biodiversity and Medicinal Plants Last Updated on 2014-08-25 12:44:43 India’s Western Ghats is a rolling mountain range containing such great biodiversity that it has been named as one of the world's eight ‘hottest hotspots of biological diversity. Spread along the entire west coast of India, this mountain range contains a large proportion of the country's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. Over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 species of mammals, 508 species of birds, including 22 endemics, 225 species of reptiles, and 179 species of amphibians live in the region. Location Starting from the northern part of Mumbai, this extensive mountain range extends over Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu to the southern tip of India. Wildlife The northern part of the range contains almost half of the reptiles, one third of the plants, and more than three fourths of the amphibians found in India. The southwestern Ghats... More »
Apiaceae or Umbelliferae: The carrot and parsley family Last Updated on 2014-08-22 14:29:26 The Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) family is comprised of over 280 genera and nearly 3,000 species, distributed over the sub-tropical, sub-temperate and temperate regions. Plants of the family are predominantly herbaceous and typcially are used commercially as aromatic medicinal plants and spices around the globe. Physical Description Leaves are alternating and either pinnately or palmately compound and exstipulate. Flowers are small, predominantly bisexual (hermaphrodite) and regular, with some variations observed across different genera. Calyx is characterized by 5 sepals, corolla consists of 5 inflexed petals (often absent in some genera). The androecium consists of 5 stamens and the gynoecium is comprised of a compound pistil produced due to fusion of the two carpels and characterized by the presence of a pair of styles staged on a broad platform (stylopodium). The ovary is of... More »
Amaranthaceae: The pigweed family Last Updated on 2014-08-22 14:28:24 Amaranthaceae is a plant family in the order Caryophyllales that is native to tropical America and Africa, ranging between tropics and sub-tropics to more temperate regions. The family is believed to have originated in either the southwestern region of the United States, Latin America, or Africa. The Amaranthaceae family is dominated by herbs but also includes vines, shrubs and trees, and is comprised of approximately 800 species represented by 60 plus genera and broadly divided into two sub families (Amaranthoideae and Gomphrenoideae). Physical Description Leaves are mostly simple and entire, non-stipulate, phyllotaxy is alternate/opposite. Flowers are regular, cyclic, tiny, and characterized by spiny perianth with conspicuous bracts and bractlets and are either unisexual/bisexual (hermaphrodite), solitary/aggregated into inflorescence (spikes/cymes/heads) (Fig 1). Calyx... More »
Cucurbitaceae: The amazing world of cucurbits Last Updated on 2014-08-22 14:26:25 The Cucurbitaceae family represents over 90 genera and approximately 960 species. The distribution is predominantly tropical and subtropical, with only a few species occurring in the temperate regions.  Plants are monoecious/dioecious and have tendrils (usually one per node), are either annual or perennial, and are typically herbaceous/woody/vines/climbers/trailers/lianas, or sometimes trees. Shoots are angular, herbaceous/woody/succulent with stem anatomy showing conspicuous bicollateral vascular bundles that are easy to identify even without staining. Leaves are alternate, spiral, petiolate, membranaceous/succulent, without stipules. They can be simple or compound (ternate/palmate), have margins with small glandular teeth (hydathodes), are hairy (glandular/eglandular), and have cystolith (crystals) present. Flowers are solitary or aggregated into inflorescences... More »